BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) — A high-level US government delegation, including National Security Adviser John Finer, met with Colombia’s newly-elected President Gustavo Petro on Friday to strengthen ties with a former ally in the hemisphere.
“President Biden has sent us to recognize the fact that the United States and Colombia are two sovereign nations, two equal partners with deep ties that have been built on and developed over decades of work,” Feiner finally told the press. Told. The meeting lasted several hours north of Bogota. “The Biden administration is committed to strengthening this relationship over time,” he added.
The visit comes ahead of the inauguration of Petro as the first president of the left in Colombia on 7 August. With particular anticipation, this is the first face-off between the two governments at a high political level. In the case of leftist Gabriel Boric in Chile, the first meeting with US officials took place just the day before his inauguration.
The bilateral agenda between Colombia and the United States is full. Officially, the White House elaborated that it would revolve around climate change, the implementation of peace, the fight against criminal organizations, and economic growth.
After the meeting, Petro assured that he had worked on “deeper” issues, including drug policy, which in his opinion could give way to a “contemporary” agenda that would solve “current problems” and future problems. allows to do.
“This is a positive meeting that reflects the interest that exists today in the United States government on Latin America and Colombia. Above all, an interest that is built around common work, among equals”, on the President-elect highlighted.
Petro has repeatedly stated that he wants to separate the anti-drug policy from prohibition and is in favor of voluntary replacement of illegal crops. As far as extradition is concerned, I would give high priority to criminals responding to victims in Colombia before going to trial in the United States. It will also transform relations with Venezuela by re-establishing diplomatic ties and modifying the free trade agreement with the United States signed a decade ago.
“As the United States government is aware of Colombia’s government, the fight against drug trafficking is a fundamental priority,” Julio Londoo, former Colombian ambassador to Cuba, told the Associated Press. “I think they are concerned that at a certain moment, the attitudes that have been made, the Petro government may take a socialist line. They want to be sure of these characteristics and the situation,” he said.
Within the Joe Biden government’s delegation are the White House’s National Security Adviser, Juan Gonzalez, the Western Hemisphere Under Secretary of State, Brian Nichols, and Phil Gordon, an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris.
González is Colombian and has criticized Petro in the past, when he was not yet a presidential candidate. In August 2020, Donald Trump published a video linking Biden to Petro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, linking progressivism to socialism. In this context, Gonzalez assured in Twitter messages that Biden did not know or “care about Gustavo Petro’s opinion.”
On the Colombian side, it was attended by the designated Foreign Minister lvaro Leyva, who, in addition to foreign relations, is in charge of presenting justice to criminal gangs and exploring approaches to restart the peace negotiation process with Liberation Army guerrillas. . National (ELN).
In addition, Luis Gilberto Murillo, named Colombian ambassador to the United States, the first Afro-descendant to hold a diplomatic post, attended. Murillo fled violence in his home country after years of kidnapping in the United States, where he acquired American citizenship, which he would now have to renounce in order to take a diplomatic post.
The United States has yet to name a new ambassador to Colombia, a process that could take time as it must be ratified by the Senate. The then US Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg stepped down shortly before the runoff, giving Petro the victory. From 1 June, Francisco Palmieri was proclaimed in Colombia as the Charge d’Affaires.
Among other pertinent issues, which were not mentioned in the joint statement, are relations with Venezuela, whose President Nicolas Maduro has been described by Washington as a dictator. Biden is encouraging Maduro to return to the negotiating table with the opposition to move toward democratic elections.
Petro, on its part, said Venezuela “lacks democracy”. However, he plans to restore diplomatic relations with the neighboring country and therefore will recognize the Maduro government as legitimate.